Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Senate Should Restore Funds for Project Sunlight and Campaign Finance Staff

We were disappointed but not terribly surprised to find that the Senate’s budget proposal strips out several important provisions to enhance accountability and oversight of candidates for public office. As the Times reports:
The Senate budget also rejects money for 21 new state workers to oversee compliance with campaign finance regulations and cuts financing for Project Sunlight, a plan by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo to build a public database to track the activity of lobbyists, donors, elected officials and special interests.
Enforcement is a crucial part of a healthy campaign finance system. As we concluded in a report last fall, not enough resources and staff are dedicated to investigating campaign finance violations.

We also found that disclosure, which is another important requirement for an effective system, is not very strong in New York. Candidates are not compelled to disclose some key information, such as their accrued expenses or expenditures that are owed but not paid at the time the service is provided. Moreover, despite improvements in 2005, the accessibility of information on the campaign finance remains inadequate. This is exactly the problem that Project Sunlight is designed to fix.

The final budget should restore funds for Project Sunlight and additional campaign finance staff.

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